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I've read about the idea that buckyballs and other nanostructures could be used to hold drugs and things until they reach certain places in the body and then get released.

So I was wondering, if you created a buckyball in air, so that some molecules that are in air (such as oxygen and nitrogen) were inside the buckyball. if you then put the buckyball in a vacuum, would the air be able to escape, or would it be trapped in the buckyball.

(And vice versa, a buckyball created in a vacuum put into the atmosphere, would any molecules fit through into the buckyball?)

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related link: – Jeremy Dec 15 '10 at 14:12
As a side comment: that the buckyballs are used to "hold drugs and things" is a slightly incomplete description. AFAIK often-times what is used is not a whole buckball but part of a fullerene with a portion removed/open, and a separate "stopper" molecule to close the hole. See e.g. doi:10.1002/anie.201004879 – Willie Wong Dec 16 '10 at 2:37
I'm not sure that's just what my chemistry teacher said could happen, she's a doctor and used to work with medicines and things so she probably knows what she's talking about. – Jonathan. Dec 16 '10 at 8:26
up vote 7 down vote accepted

It is just that the buckyball's faces are not holes as in popular view; there is pretty much electron probability density there forming quite a strong barrier. Also the size of the faces is comparable to the size of a, for instance, oxygen molecule, so I'm pretty sure that it is impossible for a buckyball to release a molecule just because of one atmosphere pressure difference; yet I don't really think that anything can be put inside without a targeted, careful procedure.

EDIT: A picture of C60, with, I hope, van der Waals surface. This shows that this structure is indeed pretty dense.
alt text

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